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Astron. Astrophys. 361, 451-464 (2000)

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The influence of interactions and minor mergers on the structure of galactic disks *

II. Results and interpretations

U. Schwarzkopf 1,2 and R.-J. Dettmar 1

1 Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany
2 Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

Received 13 September 1999 / Accepted 15 June 2000


We present the second part of a detailed statistical study focussed on the effects of tidal interactions and minor mergers on the radial and vertical disk structure of spiral galaxies. In the first part we reported on the sample selection, observations, and applied disk models. In this paper the results are presented, based on disk parameters derived from a sample of 110 highly-inclined/edge-on galaxies. This sample consists of two subsamples of 49 interacting/merging and 61 non-interacting galaxies. Additionally, 41 of these galaxies were observed in the NIR. We find significant changes of the disk structure in vertical direction, resulting in [FORMULA] times larger scale heights and thus vertical velocity dispersions. The radial disk structure, characterized by the cut-off radius and the scale length, shows no statistically significant changes. Thus, the ratio of radial to vertical scale parameters, [FORMULA], is [FORMULA] times smaller for the sample of interacting/merging galaxies. The total lack of typical flat disk ratios [FORMULA] in the latter sample implies that vertical disk heating is most efficient for (extremely) thin disks. Statistically nearly all galactic disks in the sample (93%) possess non-isothermal vertical luminosity profiles like the sech (60%) and exp (33%) distribution, independent of the sample and passband investigated. This indicates that, in spite of tidal perturbations and disk thickening, the initial vertical distribution of disk stars is not destroyed by interactions or minor mergers.

Key words: galaxies: evolution – galaxies: general – galaxies: interactions – galaxies: kinematics and dynamics – galaxies: photometry – infrared: galaxies

* Based on observations obtained at the European Southern Observatory (ESO, La Silla, Chile), Calar Alto Observatory operated by the MPIA (DSAZ, Spain), Lowell Observatory (Flagstaff/AZ, USA), and Hoher List Observatory (Germany).

Present address: Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

Send offprint requests to: U. Schwarzkopf (schwarz@as.arizona.edu)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: October 2, 2000